Are YOU Ready for Court? The Dos and Don’ts of Court Appearances
Court day—it can be one of the most stressful parts of the family law process. Often, the anticipation leading up to the hearing is worse than the actual experience itself which tends to fly by and be a blur. Here are some tried and true tricks to help you get the absolute best outcome for your case.
- Show up on time (earlier is better!) Allocate extra time for parking, security, finding your way to the correct courtroom, and having a few minutes to center yourself after all that hustle and bustle.
- Dress like it’s an interview or like you’re going to church. Judges have wide discretion in making decisions in family law cases and, like it or not, they are judging the parties based off of their appearance. By dressing up, you are conveying respect, showing that you are taking the hearing seriously, and that your case and the outcome are important to you.
- Take care of personal hygiene. Take a shower. Brush your hair. Don’t skimp out on the basics.
- Remember to bring documents that you were asked to provide. Pack these the night before your hearing so that you don’t forget anything that your attorney asked you to bring with you.
- Remain calm. It can be extremely challenging to hear the other side misrepresent things or state patently false facts. But it is imperative that you don’t interrupt while the opposing counsel or party is speaking. Any outbursts will not be looked upon favorably. by the court. Maintain a poker face as best you can during the hearing, and then vent about it to your heart’s content after you are outside the courtroom.
- Be aware of your body language. The majority of our communication is non-verbal.
- Stand up straight. Don’t cross your arms (it makes you appear defensive). Don’t roll your eyes or, tap your feet, or fidget. Appear confident, calm, and engaged.
- Show up intoxicated/hungover. Yes, there’s a reason why this is included in this list. Sometimes, parties let the anticipation get the best of them leading to poor coping mechanisms. But numbing out from alcohol or drugs never turns out well in court.
- Talk unless your attorney or the judge asks you to speak. At most hearings (motions, pre-trial conferences, status hearings), the only talking the parties will have to do is to state their names for the record and take their oaths to tell the trust. Besides that, the attorneys do most, if not all, of the conversing with the judge. If you want your attorney to know something during the hearing, write it down on a notepad in front of you on the table.
- Argue with the judge, your ex, their attorney, or court officers. If you are tempted to argue with your ex or their attorney, simply walk away and let your attorney do the talking. Arguing with the judge, court officers, or any court staff will be held negatively against you. Resist the urge in the moment and take the high road.
- Chew gum. Court is a formal proceeding, and chewing gum flies in the face of that and comes across as disrespectful.
- Put your hands in your pockets when your case is being heard. Sometimes parties do this unconsciously, but the court officer will tell you to take your hands out of your pockets as a security precaution.